Although container gardening is in many ways much more trouble-free than gardening in the ground, it does come with its own set of problems, especially when growing vegetables. I met up with one of these last year, when the sterility of the deck environment did absolutely nothing to attract bees or any other bugs – very nice for the humans but disastrous for the plants. The zucchini and eggplant would flower and flower, but no fruit ever appeared. This year the addition of flowers seems to have helped, and I’ve seen quite a few bumblebees rubbing their furry bellies where it counts.
However, this triumph comes with a dark side. Our sweet-smelling jungle has also attracted a host of other tiny friends, and while I love to invite almost anyone to come enjoy the deck, these guys are going to have to be an exception.
The main attraction seems to be the eggplant. It’s covered in aphids, as well as a colorful assortment of other things I haven’t identified yet. I saw a ladybug or two on the leaves yesterday, so I’m crossing my fingers that some of these spots represent ladybug eggs – ladybugs eat aphids! and not eggplants!
I’ve been googling aphids for days now, and everyone seems to say something different about how to get rid of them. I already tried the obvious solution, which was to spray them off with a hose. Worked like a charm…until the next day when they all came back. I’m hoping to avoid using a sledgehammer like malathion, so I think my next attempt will be a spray bottle full of soap & water.
Then there’s the zucchini plants, which have a similar problem.
Despite the completely different appearance, I’ve tentatively concluded that these are also aphids. There seems to be ants herding them, which is a common theme throughout people’s complaints about aphids. It’s gotten me very curious, and I intend to figure out what exactly those ants think they are doing!
Even worse, many of the zucchini are showing signs of rot. Google supplies the name ‘blossom-end rot’, and various forums give three possible causes:
1. NOT ENOUGH CALCIUM. This seems unlikely since the slow-release fertilizer I added on planting day contains calcium, and it is supposed to last for 3 months.
2. LACK OF POLLINATION. Possible, but since I’ve seen some bees around, I’m hoping they are doing their job well. Just in case though, I’ve started hand-pollinating by cutting off the male flower and rubbing its pollen-y goodness around inside the female flower. Gardening is kinky stuff.
3. TOO MUCH WATER. This is my prime suspicion – it’s been raining every day for at least a week, and the soil hasn’t had a chance to dry out in quite a while. But this week is looking to be quite dry, so hopefully the combination of that plus my procreation help will get these guys back on track.